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Auburn, California – On behalf of the Placer County Office of Education, County Superintendent Gayle Garbolino-Mojica welcomed Richard P. DuFour, Ed.D, and Rebecca B. DuFour, M.Ed, leaders and experts on Professional Learning Communities, for a two-day conference held on January 28 and 29, 2009.

‘As a county office of education, we are committed to provide and promote staff development that is research-based, ongoing, and directly related to increasing student achievement.  Few topics are more appropriate to meet this goal than Professional Learning Communities,’ Garbolino-Mojica said in her opening remarks. ‘Professional Learning Communities have transformed schools and districts across the country,’ she said, speaking to over 700 educators. ‘We are here to support you and to learn with you.’

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During Richard DuFour’s 19 year tenure as principal and superintendent, Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois was recognized as one of three schools in the nation to win the USDE Blue Ribbon Award (four times). Stevenson, in the popular press, is cited as one of America’s best schools and is referenced in professional literature as exemplar of best practices in education.

The DuFours have written numerous books on professional learning communities, and consult with school districts, state departments, and universities throughout North America.

‘Professional Learning Communities at Work: Bringing the Big Ideas to Life’ was co-presented by Rick and Becky DuFour at William Jessup University in Rocklin, California. Educators from 23 districts attended the event. The ‘big ideas’ presented were to accept learning as the fundamental purpose of schools and to examine all practices in light of their impact on learning. In Professional Learning Communities, teachers commit to being part of a team with a shared mission, vision, values, and goals. They work interdependently to achieve a common goal, for which members are mutually accountable.

When educators create a collaborative culture, they become high-performing teams who then impact their students’ learning. They assess their effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions. ‘Individuals, teams, and schools seek relevant data and information and use that information to promote continuous improvement,’ the DuFours state.

Schools that strive to become professional learning communities ensure higher levels of learning for all students by clarifying what each student is expected to learn and then by monitoring each student’s learning on a timely basis.

The practice is action-oriented and results-oriented and challenges the more traditional belief of ‘teacher isolation.’ The conference addressed specific methods to overcome resistance and to build successful partnerships with parents, local businesses, resource specialists, senior citizens, and other students (peer tutoring).

Garbolino-Mojica announced to the educational community that Placer County Office of Education is scheduling further related professional development events in 2009, including presenters Mike Mattos, Ken O’Connor and Dr. Mike Schmoker. PCOE will bring the DuFours back to Placer County in January 2010.

The conference was enthusiastically received. One said, ‘This was a very inspiring and motivating experience and is the piece that has been missing in my career.’ Another comment: ‘It gave our district a philosophy that affects everyone in the district, not just teachers.’

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